A FORMER Dalriada School (in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim), student is taking on the national technology world, winning the prestigious UK-wide ‘TalkTalk Next Generation Digital Hero’ award, and a prize totalling nearly £5000 to put towards his latest computing projects.
18-year-old computer education enthusiast Andrew Mulholland, was shortlisted in one of the nine categories of the UK wide awards scheme for, “recognising people who harness the internet to bring about positive social change.”
The Coleraine Queen’s University student now goes forward to be in with a chance of winning this year’s overall ‘TalkTalk Digital Hero’ for 2014, at an Awards ceremony on October 28 being held in the House of Commons in London, along with the 8 other category winners.
Speaking last week when I interviewed him, when asked was he surprised to discover he had won, a modest Andrew said:
“That’s an understatement!”
He quickly explained: “I got an Email from them (the competition organisers). I did not think I had won, people voted online before the judges made a final decision. There was a short-listing period, and it was between me and another guy, and it was looking tight, so I was shocked to discover I’d won.”
When asked about the prize, a clearly delighted Andrew said: “I’ve won £4000 which I can use to help my projects, purchase robotics stuff and ‘Raspberry Pi’ computers, for example, to continue to help me in the voluntary work I’m now involved in with schools. I also get an Apple Ipad Air.”
Andrew, who has just completed his A-levels exams and taken up a place on the Queen’s University Belfast Computer Science course 2014 intake, has spent most of his free time in the last 4 years leading workshops & courses for hundreds of children, teaching them about Computer Science.
More recently, in the last two years, Andrew has worked tirelessly as a Sixth-Form pupil to bring the new ‘Raspberry Pi’ (a small, very inexpensive) computer into classrooms across the UK, pioneered in Dalriada School, Ballymoney.
He was awarded a prestigious ‘Gold CREST’ award by the British Science Association for these endeavours.
The entrepreneurial teenager is now developing a pilot program designed to teach secondary school teachers in Northern Ireland innovative ways of using the Raspberry Pi in the classroom.
In conjunction with starting his new course at Queen’s University, Andrew decided to test out his teaching skills on a new set of children eager to learn more about this advancing technological area of teaching:
“I wanted to get involved with the Robotics competition I’ve been involved in these past few years, so I decided to contact Victoria College, a girls’ school near to Queen’s, to see if their teachers would like any assistance, or like to take up robotics. When I emailed, coincidentally, the teacher in charge had just got an email about potentially participating in this event, even though they are a school which has never been involved in anything like this before.”
“I’m now going to go in there weekly and help teach robotics, and the twenty one Year 9 girls are all super excited!” an enthusiastic Andrew said.
When asked did many of his new friends at Queen’s know of his recent success, Andrew explained:
“Not many of them do yet. My personal tutor group knows because I had to let my head know why I was missing a class last week because of finding out, and he got me to explain my win to the others.”
Remarkably, at such a young age, Andrew has also spoken at several national technology and education events, including the “Future of Computing” conference in London, and the UK Computing at Schools conference in Birmingham, where he enthusiastically spoke on the use of robotics in the classroom.